Despite everyone's reactions after he revealed his Virtus and lack of Epithets, Lucius simply kept on eating his burger in silence—letting every bite of it overwhelm his senses completely. The table was peaceful, but not for long.
After watching Lucius for a while, Ardred said, "Wait, do you have any idea how hard it would be for you to start this cycle as a Primus with your stats? Let me tell you—"
Tissette clapped, interrupting Ardred with an annoyed sigh. "Not right now, Ardy. It’s a party, remember? No academy stuff today, please. Just fun stuff."
"I just thought he should know," said Ardred, shrugging before going back to eating his meal without another word.
Lucius turned to look at Tissette who simply smiled at him. He then looked away and took another bite out of his burger as he wondered why Ardred said what he just did.
He knew very little about Antebellum Academy and the situation that he'd gotten himself into, so he would've done him good if Ardred wasn't interrupted. Every single piece of information would have helped, but alas, he wasn't always going to get his way. Then again, when did it ever?
Seems like a 'party' isn't the place for discussing these things. I'll keep that in mind. No matter. I will read up on this academy later before I take my rest. And those Patch Notes as well. Hmm, I wonder what that book is about?
"Lucy, your eyebrows are scrunchin' again. What're you thinkin' about now?"
"Nothing," Lucius, now finished with his burger, took another one and looked at Tissette. "I'm just having fun."
"That's what I'm talkin' about! Some positivity from you, finally!"
Lucius dodged another one of Tissette's backslaps with a frown and put a hand over his burger defensively.
Mort snickered. "Heh, you're not going to be saying that tomorrow, new guy. Master Katherine tends to be a lot tougher on newbies on their first day. Plus she's even more of a crank after the holidays since she has no one to spend them with. Basically, I wouldn't want to be you right now."
Ardred grimaced. "True that. Prepare your body, Lucius."
Even Orlen and Althea who were both the quieter of the bunch nodded with a distraught look on their faces.
"Oh, c'mon guys. Why do you have to be so pessi—pes...uh, negative all the time? You're killin' the vibe, y'know?" said Tissette with an eye roll.
"Hey, we're not all primed for a sure-fire promotion to the Secundus ranks like you, Tiz," Mort said. "At least you don't have to deal with Dario and the others anymore next year."
"Yeah, fuck that asshole," Orlen mumbled out of nowhere, surprising everyone at the table. "You should've let me deal with him back then. I would've squashed him like a—"
"Enough, okay?" Tissette said with a sullen look on her face. "Sorry guys, but you know we can't do anythin' about him. Best we can do is avoid him for now."
With an unusually heavy expression, Ardred said, "Until what? Until he and his cronies kill one of us with their antics? And how come that geezer upstairs still won't do anything about this? You talk to him from time to time, right? Do you tell him what they do to you at all?"
Tissette shook her head. "I already told you that Grandmaster Elrond doesn't like to interfere when it comes to these things. He calls it 'tough love', and to some extent, I kinda agree with him, y'know?"
"Figures," said Orlen with a sigh. "A victim to the end, even if you have the power to stop it."
"Still, I think Ardred is on the right here. Grandmaster El has been pretty much 'hands-off' when it comes to managing the academy as a whole for a long, long time now," Mort said. "I think that not only us, but the other students who Dario messes with could be in a better situation right now if only he'd change his way of thinking. We're not soldiers after all."
Lucius's ears twitched as he heard Ardred mumble something over his breath while shaking his head. His eyes narrowed as he wondered what it could be.
"You always think too much, Mort. It's really not all that complicated," said Orlen with a shrug. "Tissette won't mess with Dario because he's Aidan's friend."
"Hey, my love life has nothing to do with this!"
Ardred, Mort, and Orlen snickered while shaking their heads almost simultaneously.
"Wh-What?" said Tissette defensively.
Ardred smirked. "Even if it's not real, I don't think Dario would approve of your imaginary 'love life' with Aidan much, Tiz."
"I'm workin' on it, alright? It's not imaginary, it's uh, just a work in progress!"
Unable to contain his curiosity any longer, Lucius said, "I-If you don't mind me asking, who is this 'Dario' fellow you speak of?"
"Oh, hey there Lucy!" As if happy that Lucius finally pitched in on the conversation, Tissette perked up and answered, "Remember the Ferrian who chased us earlier?"
"Oh," Lucius said with a knowing nod.
No wonder they reacted the way they did. That fellow seemed incorrigible indeed.
"Wait, Dario chased you guys earlier? No wonder the new guy was panting his lungs out after you got here."
"That fucking guy..."
"Nah, don't worry about it. I used Windrun on both of us so we got away pretty fast," Tissette said. "Cool, huh?"
"Oh no, you cast a spell indoors? And Windrun at that?" Mort said, frowning. "Who else saw you? You're gonna get us in trouble again, Tiz."
Tissette simply stuck her tongue out with a wry smile and didn't reply.
Lucius rubbed his chin as he mused inwardly.
So casting spells inside the castle is forbidden? But it's not Lady Carraway's first time, it seems like. She must fear that Dario fellow pretty badly. I wonder why?
"Alright, enough of the academy talk, okay? Didn't I say that this is a party? Come on everyone, it's time for some party gamin'!"
"Ah ah ah, shush," Tissette said, reaching over and putting a finger over Ardred's lips.
Ardred shot up and wiped his lips repeatedly. "Ugh, you got grease fingers!"
Lucius looked around as Althea stood up and went right back to the lightbox at the corner of the room.
Games? What games?
He had heard and read a lot about games before, and the mere mention of it made his heart pound with excitement. If he knew something about games, it was that they're supposed to be fun, and it certainly won't be a bad thing to experience first while starting his new life at all. Thinking so, he leaned in his seat absently.
"Soo, what're we playin' first?"
"Come on, Tiz. We just ate," Orlen said, sighing.
"Charades first then."
"Oh, did you even hear what I—"
Lucius, along with the others, froze right in the middle of Orlen's complaint. The atmosphere in the room suddenly changed, and he observed the others carefully—including Althea who shot right up from her couch at the corner of the room before turning off the lightbox in a hurry.
His eyes widened as soon as he realized what they were looking at. Or who, rather.
H-How did she get here without any of us sensing it? A spell perhaps?"
Speechless, Lucius could do nothing but rise slowly from his seat—bewildered just like everyone else.
"Well, well, well, what do we have here?" said Katherine before putting a hand over Tissette's shoulder. "You've been having fun weren't you, my dear Tissette?
Tissette stammered. "M-Master Katherine I...I just—"
"Just what?" said Katherine with an eerie, strained smile as her hold on Tissette's shoulder tightened. "Why didn't I just leave you to train by yourself? What are you doing here?"
"Uh, j-just so we're clear, Master Katherine, w-we didn't know that she skipped training," Mort said while waving his hands around nervously.
Katherine took one look at Mort, and it was enough to make the latter whimper and shrink away behind Ardred who simply stood by him stiffly without saying a word.
"So you say, Mort," Katherine said with a straight face. "By the way, since I didn't have anyone to spend my holiday with, I think I should be extra grumpy tomorrow. Don't you think so too?"
"I'll be seeing you tomorrow then. Be ready."
Lucius almost grimaced as he saw Mort's face pale considerably.
Lady Carraway's not the only one terrified of Master Katherine, it seems like.
If anything, Katherine seemed to be more in line with the leadership style that Lucius was used to. The woman was not at all like the laid-back Elrond, he thought to himself.
"But master, i-it's a party so—"
"And I should care...why?" said Katherine with a frown. "I gave you punishment in the form of training, young lady. You're going to finish it today."
"I, uh...nevermind," Tissette said, her eyes almost tearing up right before being led to the door by Katherine. She turned to look at Lucius and the others for a moment and sighed—disappointment written across her face.
"W-Wait, Master Katherine."
Lucius took a deep breath as everyone in the room turned towards him—some even shaking their heads while desperately trying to get his attention.
"What is it, young man?"
"Pardon me, but I was the one that told Tissette to show me around the castle today."
Katherine raised a brow. "Your point being?"
"Ah, m-my point? My point is—"
"Still, it was still her own decision to come to this party, wasn't it?"
Lucius was about to say something back when Tissette suddenly shook her head surreptitiously behind Katherine.
"It's alright Lucy. I'll be back as soon as I can," said Tissette with a wry smile.
Katherine huffed. "I doubt it."
Before going, Tissette nodded at Lucius with a small, grateful smile, while mouthing off the words, "Thanks for trying.'
The door was shut, and all Lucius heard after a long time was Mort's long, painful sigh of mixed relief and resignation.
The joyous atmosphere died down pretty quickly once Tissette was taken—as if the entire party was also taken with her. Lucius stuck around for a while to help with the cleanup—his head swimming with idle thoughts.
Perhaps I should have pushed harder? Curses! Why is the mere act of talking to others and articulating my thoughts so difficult?
"Thank you for the good time."
With the cleanup all done, Lucius turned to look at Althea who lifted the heavy-looking lightbox over her shoulder before walking out the door without saying another word. The girl was strong, especially for her size.
That girl was strange enough on her own, but what a bizarre thing that 'lightbox' was. How'd they fit those people inside?
"Hey. Sorry about that," Ardred said before tapping Lucius on the shoulder.
Lucius nodded curtly. "It's quite alright. I had some fun, at least."
Ardred grinned. "Hey, what you did earlier, standing up for Tissette? That was kinda cool. Too bad Master Katherine's too much of a hardass to listen to you though."
"H-Hey! She might still be listening in on us right now!" Mort said as he looked around the room in a panic.
Slightly uplifted despite his failure to convince Katherine, Lucius was about to thank Ardred with a grin but was immediately interrupted.
"Kinda stupid, more like," Orlen said before jumping out of the couch he was sitting on and walking towards Lucius. "You just got yourself in a world of trouble, newbie. I hope you know what you're doing."
Lucius's eyes then glinted as Orlen's Declaration appeared out of thin air.
Race: Elf [Boon of Eternity]
• Apprentice Phytomancer • Noble •Bearer of the Greenwall Bloodline
Lucius's eyes narrowed, thoroughly shocked and amused by what he was seeing.
A noble and a descendant of the Greenwalls? One uncommon, one rare, and one unique Epithet. Impressive indeed.
The more Lucius thought about it, the more his curiosity was piqued.
And he has 177.95 Virtus as well. Even for an elf, this is a tad...unusual.
"Dude, no need to show off your stats to the new guy," Mort said. "What, you wanna show him your complete stats too while you're at it?"
"I wasn't showing off." Orlen then turned to Lucius and frowned. "I just showed him what it takes to survive in this godsawful place. And I'm not even the strongest one here."
Lucius almost doubled over after hearing Orlen's words. Just how far behind was he compared to these people?